A collaborative project of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center and the UA Office of Sustainability was one of several selected by the American Institute of Architects to represent the professional organization in exhibitions at a United Nations summit in Quito, Ecuador, in October.

Their project, Fayetteville 2030: Food City Scenario, was part of Habitat III: United Nations Conference on Housing and Urban Sustainable Development. A Habitat U.N. summit has been held every 20 years, with the first two summits held in Vancouver in 1976 and in Istanbul in 1996. The event aims to chart the path of global cities in the 21st century.

The AIA's engagement in Habitat III was based on a platform to use design as a solution to the globe's most wicked problems, engage architects early as systems thinkers, and use the AIA content platform to showcase AIA strategic initiatives.

To promote this platform, AIA presented a curated collection of projects in the Habitat III exhibition in Quito. Those same projects also were exhibited in Los Angeles in October at Greenbuild 2016, the international expo, and they will be exhibited in 2017 at the International Union of Architects Congress and Assembly in Seoul, South Korea.

The Habitat III Conference was convened to reinvigorate the global commitment to sustainable urbanization, to focus on the implementation of a New Urban Agenda. This includes securing a renewed political commitment for sustainable urban development, assessing accomplishments to date, addressing poverty, and identifying and addressing new and emerging challenges.

According to the U.N. News Centre, the conference drew some 36,000 people from 167 different countries. Participants included parliamentarians, professors, researchers, civil society organizations, foundations, youth groups and trade unions, to name a few. This conference encouraged a discussion among the audience regarding the future and goals of urban development.

"We are pleased to have been selected to represent the AIA over the next two years in discussing the future of cities. As with all of our projects, Food City anticipates the next economy by solving simultaneously for social and ecological challenges to build prosperity," said Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center. "Successful cities of the future will overcome their bureaucratic silos and make decisions very differently, while re-engaging the art of strategic and holistic thinking. We are already seeing pioneer cities - large and small - enhance well-being through development of green infrastructure and restoration of urban ecosystems, healthy local food systems, affordable housing, innovation districts, creative public transit systems, and expanded education opportunities."

The Community Design Center is an outreach program of the Fay Jones School. Luoni is a Distinguished Professor of architecture and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies in the school.

"The successful city of the future does not fear creative planning solutions. The age of conventional comprehensive plans and traffic studies - which predictably tell us we need more high-speed highways - to plan places is dead," Luoni said. "The successful future city is using advanced scenario planning to build local resiliency, decreasing risks from economic, climatic and social shocks, while making memorable places expressive of their locality. Unfortunately, many cities will not succeed in making the necessary cultural shift and thus will suffer economically."

Produced by an interdisciplinary team, Fayetteville 2030: Food City Scenario speculates on what Fayetteville would look like if its urban growth integrated local food production substantial enough to create self-sufficiency. This scenario devises a middle-scale urban food production model between the scale of the individual garden and the industrial farm.

The missing middle food shed functions as an ecological municipal utility, featuring green infrastructure, shared growscapes, areas for food processing and distribution, and organic waste recycling areas. Creating a much more self-sufficient urban agricultural environment can increase food security for more people, Luoni said.

Fayetteville currently has an estimated population of 83,000, which is expected to nearly double over the next 20 years. Although Northwest Arkansas is the most prosperous region in the state, it also has one of the state's highest child hunger rates.

Incorporating agriculture back into the city environment will benefit economic development, add value to food products, provide community-wide ecosystem enhancement, and promote healthy lifestyles by expanding access to nutritious foods, Luoni said.

The interdisciplinary team at the University of Arkansas that created Food City worked with local nonprofit groups dedicated to fighting hunger and poverty. This collaborative plan involved the Fay Jones School, the department of biological and agricultural engineering, the Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability, the School of Law and its master of laws program in agricultural and food law, the department of food science, and the city of Fayetteville.

Preparation of Food City was sponsored in part by a grant from the Clinton Global Initiative and the American Institute of Architects under their Decade of Design initiative.

AuthorLinda Komlos